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Beyond Ferguson: What is the role of bias in police shootings?




Michael Brown's parents Lesley McSpadden (left) and Michael Brown Sr. (right) flank attorney Anthony Gray as he speaks at a news conference held Tuesday, one month after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo.
Michael Brown's parents Lesley McSpadden (left) and Michael Brown Sr. (right) flank attorney Anthony Gray as he speaks at a news conference held Tuesday, one month after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo.
Jeff Roberson/AP

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In Ferguson, Missouri the City Council met earlier this week for the first time since a police officer fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. It was a heated affair.

Council members tried to work their way through city business but often found themselves drowned out by protestors yelling "Shut it down!"

How can the town of Ferguson heal after what has happened? What can the nation do to improve relations between African Americans and the police?

One important step is to examine something known as "implicit bias" and how it affects our actions, said Joshua Dubois, whose recent article in the National Journal is titled, "Beyond Dialogue."

"Implicit bias is the deeply held beliefs and assumptions that we have about the people around us, the beliefs that we may not even be fully aware of ourselves," said Dubois.

Those biases, left unexamined, can contribute to tragic results, such as fatal police shootings, said Dubois. But it's also something that can have profound effects on our daily lives -- and something that people, not just law enforcement, must take responsibility for.

"It's easy to respond to situations on the news and feel bad or feel guilty or not feel guilty," said Dubois. "It's much more difficult thing to look at ourselves and about how bias works in our lives and affects the people around us and then take steps to address it."